The resounding rejection of a wastewater treatment plant in Esquimalt is being tested once more by the Capital Regional District board.
On Wednesday, the CRD board agreed to cover Esquimalt’s capital costs should Esquimalt approve the construction of the plant at McLoughlin Point, part of the core area’s secondary sewage treatment project.
Esquimalt council rejected the plant in early April after holding four days of public hearings, where the vast majority of speakers spoke against the $788-million Seaterra program.
“I’m going to wait unit the CRD has sent a letter outlining the offer, because there’s just far too much rhetoric going on right now,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins. “But everything I’m hearing from our community is it’s not about the money.”
The CRD is scrambling to comply with federal and provincial regulations that require secondary sewage treatment by 2020. Should it fail to meet those deadlines, about $500 million in funding contributions from higher levels of government is at risk. CRD directors are also spurred on by the threat of personal liability for failure to comply with the regulations, and B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak has indicated she won’t exercise the province’s ability to force through the McLoughlin site.
Desjardins said some residents are feeling “betrayed and upset” that the CRD can’t accept the township’s opposition to the McLoughlin site, and she’ll continue to hold discussions with regional mayors and First Nations leaders about the possibility of a distributed treatment model. Colwood has already formally backed out of the Seaterra program and is pursuing its own sewage treatment site.
“We think we can gather some information fairly quickly to help us with the distributed model discussion,” Desjardins said. “There’s a lot of balls in the air right now and we need to act on them fairly quickly.”
CRD directors will ask Desjardins to respond to their new offer by July 16, a deadline Desjardins said isn’t feasible.
“I’ve already given the CRD an indication that’s probably not a valid timeframe,” she said. “I can’t even see it coming to council this week because we have a full agenda and we need time for a full public process.”
The CRD board recommended three other concurrent options to comply with sewage treatment deadlines:
Ask regional municipalities and First Nations if they’re willing to offer a site for a wastewater treatment plant.
Gather information on the feasibility and cost of a distributed treatment model
Ask the province to take responsibility for sewage treatment in the Capital Region.